Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
Manny Pacquiao’s success is legendary. As a boxer, his discipline and dedication is remarkable. His fighting style is quite methodical and his strategies change based on what needs to be done to defeat his opponent. He is unpredictable and formidable but at the same time, a real sportsman on the ring. Pacquiao may be the greatest boxer alive.
His fights are treated as national holidays that even criminals, terrorists, and rebels honor by temporarily putting down their arms and taking a break to cheer him on.
Pacquiao is also an astute businessman. He is most sought after as an endorser, both locally and internationally. He even turned his hobby, singing, into a business! He does concerts and produces his own music CDs. How awesome is that?
Pacquiao’s story is one for the books. His meteoric rise from abject poverty to becoming one of the world’s greatest boxers of all time and one of the richest in the country is truly phenomenal.
He is so popular that he even managed to win a seat in the House of Representatives. Now, he is not only the great boxer, he is also the Honorable Emmanuel Pacquiao, the gentleman from the lone congressional district of Sarangani.
When the time comes that he decides to publish his autobiography, it will surely sell and earn him more millions. People will buy because the Pacquiao story is out of the ordinary, one of a kind. Rare.
This is one of the things that I hope Rep. Pacquiao will understand. That he is one in many millions. While his story should inspire people, we should not expect that the country can and will produce thousands like him.
His story cannot be used to justify the position that parents should have as many children as possible, without regard for the kind of life their kids will have because another Manny Pacquiao just might be waiting to be born. This is not only wishful thinking, this is irresponsible.
Thus, the need for couples to be responsible parents should be attended to. Part of which is preparing that the children they bring into this world will be well-cared for, well-loved, and well-provided for. To be able to do this, parents need to plan their families and not rely on fate.
Sixty-three percent of currently married women said that they no longer want to have another child. The unmet need for family planning for poor women is 51 percent much higher than that of those who have means. In fact, poor women give birth to more children they want, about three times the number of children of those who are not poor. Family planning therefore, is more for those in poverty (National Demographic and Health Survey [NDHS] 2008).
Pacquiao’s line that the reproductive health (RH) bill need not be passed because those who want to use condoms and contraceptives are already using them is misguided. He needs to understand that availability is not equivalent to accessibility and that it is the poor who want but have no access to such.
Pacquiao has repeatedly said that his main purpose for being in politics is to fight poverty. He even said that his biggest fight is not in the boxing ring, but against poverty in his, and our country. I believe that he sincerely wants to do this.
One would therefore expect that the Honorable Gentleman from Sarangani would support all measures that will help the war against poverty, including the RH bill.
Poverty is a complex and multi-dimensional problem that cannot be defeated by any ONE law. Corruption, bad governance, absence of gainful employment and livelihood opportunities, poor quality of the public education system, food insecurity, lack of basic services especially health-related ones, are but some factors affecting poverty. All these should be addressed. This is another matter that I hope Pacquiao will realize.
His (as well as others’) opposition to the RH bill because it will not solve poverty betrays a simplistic appreciation of an otherwise complicated problem.
The RH bill does not claim to solve poverty because it CANNOT. However, enacting this bill into law will help in arresting inter-generational poverty, which, at this point is inherited by the younger generation. If one is born poor, it is very difficult to overcome it, especially for big families.
A direct correlation between family size and poverty incidence is clearly established by data indicating that the bigger the family is, the higher the poverty incidence is also (2003 Family Income and Expenditures Survey [FIES], National Statistics Office [NSO]). Simply put, if you have a big family and you are poor, resources are so scarce that children’s needs for education, health, and other basic needs are hardly met. How can children of big but poor families escape poverty?
Moreover, if Rep. Pacquiao is truly pro-poor, he would want to address poor women’s RH-related needs. These include access to life-saving RH services the absence of which cause maternal deaths. Two indicators used to measure such is the number of women giving birth in health facilities and births attended by health professionals. These mean that women are cared for and the facilities they need are present.
Nationally, only 26 percent of deliveries by poor women are assisted by professionals and 71 percent by “hilots”. Fifty-six percent of births take place at home and this is most common for poor women (87 percent), under age 20 (62 percent), without education (94 percent), with six or more children (80 percent) and those in rural areas (70 percent).
SOCCSKSARGEN, the region where Rep. Pacquiao’s district is, is among the regions with the highest number of women delivering at home, 77 percent and least women delivering in health facilities, 23.5 percent (NDHS 2008). Clearly, Pacquiao’s women constituents are among those women who need the RH bill to pass the most. Pacquiao owes them these.
Why deny women these, Rep. Pacquiao? People now criticize you for this.
You are a legend in boxing; you should also be in Congress. Vote for the poor, vote for RH.